Editorial opinions around the state: Kansas views on coal plant deal, KU alcohol policy

Wichita Eagle:

Coal-plant deal — Gov. Mark Parkinson forged what appears to be a genuinely productive compromise with Sunflower Electric Power Corp. CEO Earl Watkins. The deal would allow Sunflower to build one plant. That’s less coal-generating capacity than it had sought but more than will please opponents of additional coal power. The utility also will take steps that could make the plant “carbon neutral” and will invest more heavily in renewable energy than it had planned. The compromise also would prevent the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment from imposing emissions standards that are stricter than federal standards without legislative approval. Good work, governor.– Manhattan Mercury

Gov. Mark Parkinson’s disappointing compromise on the future of coal-fired power in Kansas will require intense monitoring by state officials to protect the public from pollution and rising costs. Under the pact announced last week, Sunflower Electric would be allowed to build a plant more than four times larger than needed to supply its western Kansas customers. So while most of the plant’s electricity would flow to Colorado, its considerable pollution would drift eastward across Kansas for years to come. Parkinson also regrettably agreed to essentially strip the Kansas Department of Health and Environment of the ability to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions beyond federal standards. Until now, that agency has helped fend off the excessive expansion of Sunflower’s plant. Finally, the pact would let Sunflower come back in just two years for yet another coal-fired facility. Or… just maybe, Parkinson is craftier than most people appreciate. His new plan could push the utility to invest in renewable energy, while financing problems or new federal laws could kill the coal-fired plant. If that happens, Kansans could turn out to be big winners after all.– Kansas City Star

Environmentalists and others who protested the expansion should at least acknowledge that the deal has something for everyone. That’s quite an accomplishment, after it appeared the state and Sunflower were worlds apart. Now Sunflower is poised to be in even better position to deliver affordable electricity in a responsible way, with the added bonus of positive economic impact. Give credit to all involved for a plan that should be a model for others in addressing energy needs.– Garden City Telegram

Alcohol abuse — A new parental notification policy announced by the University of Kansas is a commonsense step toward dealing with drug and alcohol abuse among KU students. In response to federal laws concerning student privacy, KU officials had stopped releasing information to parents even about serious student infractions. After the recent deaths of two KU students in incidents involving alcohol use, university officials decided to revisit that policy. Federal laws give universities some leeway to inform parents about matters of health and safety without the written consent of the student. Officials have decided to make use of that leeway by rewriting their policy to allow the university to notify parents and legal guardians of serious drug and alcohol infractions by students under the age of 21. The policy is not a cure-all, and it won’t guarantee that more serious incidents don’t occur, but it will give parents a chance to get involved.– Lawrence Journal-World

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